With talent wars raging in hot spots across the country, benefits that have a real impact on employees’ lives are important retention tools now more than ever before. In fact, 50% of employees say that improving their benefits packages is one thing their employer could do to keep them in their job.

The big hitch? Benefits, especially health insurance, grow more expensive every year. So how can employers build an attractive benefits plan without breaking the bank? By making smart use of technology, and by identifying low-cost but meaningful benefits that can improve your employees’ well-being.

Get off the benefits hamster wheel

Let’s face it: Few companies can compete with the expansive benefits packages offered by Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft. But you can learn from their innovations. Instead of offering the same benefits as everyone else, those companies have crafted offerings that reflect their distinct corporate cultures and employee bases, and that go beyond the standard medical, dental and life insurance benefits packages of the past.

To break out of the cookie-cutter approach to benefits, talk to your employees to identify ways to provide the right benefits to the right employees — and make it an ongoing dialogue, not just a one-time conversation. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised to find out that many of the most-desired benefits won’t break the bank.

For example, more employees are interested in working for a company that can provide them with a flexible work schedule, rather than requiring them to be at their desk in the office 9-5. Others may want things from their employer that they couldn’t get otherwise, such as a personal loan to pay for tuition or an unexpected expense. At the heart of it, today’s workforce is fundamentally different from those that have come before. Today’s workers individually want different things as part of their benefits package, but it ultimately comes down to them wanting to be heard. A great employer will listen to employees and, in turn, provide them with great benefit packages that reflect their personal needs.

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“Today’s workers individually want different things as part of their benefits package, but it ultimately comes down to them wanting to be heard.”

At Hixme, we have a range of employee-sources benefits that reinforce our family-friendly culture and don’t have significant costs. For example, we have an open-door policy of allowing employees’ kids into the office, with rooms set up for schoolwork, and other areas equipped with puzzles, play stations and whiteboards. Several employees have their kids in after school on a weekly basis, and some leave the office in order to pick up their kids and finish up the day from home.

Tailoring benefits

Traditionally, employers have offered benefits plans from insurance companies that cover the nuclear family only: the employee, their dependent children and spouse. While that meets many employees’ needs, it doesn’t address multigenerational families that include other family members, which have become increasingly common. By choosing an insurance exchange platform, instead of a prepackaged plan from one of the big insurance companies, employers of any size can easily provide employees with the option to extend benefits beyond health care, and beyond the nuclear family to extended family and friends.

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“A great employer will listen to employees and, in turn, provide them with great benefit packages that reflect their personal needs.”

It’s impossible to find — or afford — a “one-size-fits-all” benefits package that truly meets the needs of your diverse workplace. While one employee may want enhanced dental benefits due to anticipating his child’s braces, another cavity-free employee might prefer pet insurance to help defray the cost of her rogue cat’s inevitable street battles. Similarly, your employee who never has a sick day doesn’t think it’s fair that he has to foot the bill for his colleague’s knee surgery. The old way of funding benefits plans counts on your healthy employees’ premiums to pick up the slack for your plan members who use the most benefits. And if that doesn’t happen, your premiums go up — sometimes sharply.

Now, smarter benefits technology can allow you to create truly individualized benefits that appeal to every individual in your company. You set the budget and fund the accounts, but your employees are in control of how they use the money. Employees don’t feel stuck with benefits they won’t use, or without the health insurance plan they really want and need.

Instead, they directly see the value of their benefits. This sort of tailored approach to benefits can become a significant employer brand differentiator, while positively impacting the lives of your employees every day. Isn’t it time you brought the employee benefit back to your employee benefits program?

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